Passion for pants

Daily Prompts: Passionate

The sixties were coming to a close and everything that was important was happening on a college campus—or at least I thought it was. Civil rights, women’s rights, protests against the Vietnam war, fighting for the rights of migrant workers, the Beatles, hippies, the draft, getting the vote for 18-year-olds. But I wasn’t going to college.

Okay, so I can’t go to college. I won’t let this stop me. I will be part of the social revolution!

Thankfully, my mother had insisted I take a typing class in high school. “Just in case,” she said. Just in case what? “You’ll always be able to get as a secretary.”

In case I don’t get married was what she meant. In case I don’t go to college was what I thought.

But just like college, marriage did not look like it was going to happen. Living at home wasn’t’ in my plan either. Neither was Timothy Leary’s philosophy of “Tuning in and dropping out.” I needed a job. So, secretary it was.women-in-office

How could I explain my fall from activist grace to my friends.  I couldn’t admit that I had succumbed to the evil establishment. Women’s libbers were encouraged to resist the society’s traditional roles, pull away from the stereotype—be all we could be, whatever that was. And it wasn’t a housewife or secretary.

I felt like a social activist camouflaged as a secretary. I had to redeem myself in the eyes of my fellow resistance fighters.

Did I mention I lived in the Deep South? No? Well, secretaries in the South in the 60’s and 70’s wore the clothes from hell—dresses, nylons, pumps. No pants, no bare legs. Kathryn Hepburn was not a highly regarded role model for young women. But this was it! This was my cause! Pants in the office, trousers as Kathryn would say.women-wearing-pants

Images of Gloria Steinem’s revelations of the degradation of women as Playboy Bunnies flashed before me. I would expose the misogynistic dress code and fight for women to be allowed pants in the office.

I was ready to defend the rights of women!

I stood outside my boss’s office door building up my courage. I smoothed my A-line skirt and tucked in my shirt.

“Mr. Sanders. I want to talk to you about the requirement that women in our office wear skirts or dresses. Women should be able to wear pants in the office.”

“You are absolutely right,” he said.equal-pay-pic

Who knew he was such a liberal!  I began rehearsing a more hard won version of this victory to my friends depicting myself as the quiet revolutionary.

 

I can’t do squat!

 

Daily Prompt – Sidewalk

I can’t do squat! And I mean that literally. The older I get, the less cooperative my knees are and the lower I can squat. This is probably the biggest reason my backside is flat as a pancake. Well, maybe not literally but pretty close. And every year, especially now that I’m closer to 70 than 60, what little rear end I have droops lower and lower. It’s been years since anyone told me that I squat “ass to the grass.”

jb plank
Seriously, who needs a butt when they can do an extended plank like this!

 

When I ask a potential female client what her goals are, nine times out of ten, it involves her booty.  For many women, working out is all about the butt. Harder, firmer, higher, rounder, smaller, less jiggly, ad infinitum. And the squat, of which there are hundreds of variations, is the all-time glute day favorite.

There are some girls (and by that I mean women under 40) who do glute work every day. I call them the “Queens of Squat,” and they love it when I bestow the title upon them. When I see one of the queens working out, I can’t help it, my mind starts reciting my pet gym mantra, “we must, we must, we must improve our butt.”

While my caboose may not be high and tight, it’s not too flabby either. And I owe my somewhat fit, tiny hiney to an exercise I lovingly call the “side walk” or “penguin walk.” My clients call it the walk from hell. There are several variations. If you are suffering with knee pain, choose a style that doesn’t require you to bend your knees. Remember, if there’s pain, you must abstain.

I like using a resistance band, but the “side walk” can be just as effective with your body weight, sans equipment.  If you tightly squeeze your gluteus muscles during this exercise, you will feel the burn. When a client tells me she thought of me every time she went to the potty, I know I’m doing my best work.

Here are the basics.

  • Position your feel shoulder width apart. The band should be taunt but not stretched. You can place the band above your knees or closer to your ankles. If you have a resistance tube, step on the tube and hold the handles to create resistance.
  • Bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position to activate the gluteus muscles.
  • Keeping your feet in line with your shoulders, step sideways to the right keeping the band tensed. Without releasing the band’s tension, continuing side stepping for 10 reps.
  • Repeat to the left for ten reps.

Trust me, you’ll be thinking about me tomorrow.

Let them eat cake!

Daily Post: Jeopardize

Don’t tell anyone. You have to swear to keep this a secret. For breakfast I ate two pieces of berry crumb coffee cake and a large, very large piece of birthday cake. In addition to wanting to throw up, I want to hide my head in shame. Why would I want to jeopardize all the hard word I do at the gym every day? I don’t know. I don’t know. Guilt overwhelms me.

It’s my friend’s fault. She made me do it. Last night was her birthday party. As I was leaving she wrapped up the birthday and coffee cake. “No, no. Really, I don’t want any.” “Yes. Here. Take some home.” “No, no. Really.” The plate was already in my hand.

Even if I hated it, which I didn’t, I would have had to take the cake. It’s only polite.

However, politeness had nothing to do with eating three pieces of carb hell for breakfast. Why didn’t I stop after one piece? Compulsive sugar binge. There’s no other way to describe it. Self will run riot. Total loss of control. Can’t anyone stop me?alisha birthday cake

I can’t put all the blame on my friend. I do have to accept responsibility for my part in this debauchery. I was in charge of the cake.  I bought the most decadent birthday cake available—buttercream frosting, cheesecake filling, and probably some other evil sugar loaded ingredient. I wouldn’t want my friend to think I scrimped on the cake for her special day.

And, drum roll please—birthday girl is my workout buddy. Why would she do this to me? Really, though, can I blame her. It’s only fair. After all I brought the cake. I was planning my sugar overload when I ordered the cake and again when I picked it up. This sugar binge didn’t happen by accident. Nope, it was planned. “It’s just one day,” we said to each other. Permission granted. Go ahead.

It’s over now though. The cake is gone. I now own all the calories—probably in the neighborhood of 3,000. But what’s done is done.

It’s been 8 hours since breakfast. I don’t think I can eat anything. I really feel sick. But when I do, it won’t be cake.

Look up! Look down!

Daily Prompt: Eyes

“Really. What do you think about this dress?”

No! No! Don’t ask me that, girlfriend. You’re doing good on your diet, but you still have at least 15 pounds to lose. And you have a big butt, which actually I’m actually a little envious of, but it does make the back of the dress hike up a little bit. And you’re my best friend. I love you. Please, please, don’t ask me this question. I’m groaning inside.

Woman with big round butt in tight blue pants walkingflat butt

“Does it look good on me?” She’s eyeing herself in the mirror and making eye-contact with me at the same time in her reflection. God I hate that. All hairdressers should be flogged for inventing that move. Maybe if I move to the other side of the dressing room. Not working. The dressing room is the size of a bathroom on an airplane.

I remind myself that I’m the girlfriend. No matter what! She cannot buy that dress. Okay. Think. Think. Okay. Got it!

“It looks okay, (lie) but the blue one looks better (truth). It’s a little bit longer (true) and makes your legs look longer (half truth).” I could ask her to try the blue one on again. But I’m so tired and my feet hurt. No. Not going to do that.

Yikes. Was I looking up and to the right? Is that the direction that means I’m lying? Maybe the lying direction is to the left. Dammit! Just look her right in the eye and smile.

“Come on, girlfriend. Let’s keep shopping! We can do better!” That’s the truth, so it doesn’t matter which way I look.

Inside I’m screaming. Not only do I not like to shop, but we’ve been at the mall for two hours and we’re no closer to finding a dress than we started. Maybe I can talk her into slacks. Yes. That’s the way to go. I can do it.

It’s like I’m a kid all over again. Look up, look down, look all around! Remember that game? Probably not. It’s a pretty old game. The leader shouts, “look up” or “look down.” I never could figure out exactly what the rules were, but screaming was involved and I always got eliminated early because I screamed when I wasn’t looking at someone, and I guess that wasn’t right.

“Oh, hey, look. Starbucks! Let’s get a coffee and decide where we’re going next.”

“By the way, those jeans look really good on you (truth). Did we get them the last time we were at the mall? Maybe we should think about slacks (truth)? What do you think?”

 

Just a Little Face Paint

Daily Post: Paint

Yesterday my friend, Alisha, along with “Big John,” the makeover consultant at Lancôme Cosmetics, convinced me to have a makeover. How bad could it be, I thought. After one and half hours perched on a stool holding a hand mirror and trying not to fidget, I remembered why I have a pretty minimal make-up routine.

For one thing, the enthusiasm and absolute glee that these two beauty mavens exhibited wore me out.  Big John’s mantra was “blend, blend, blend.” In a dramatic voice, flourishing one of his many brushes, he would look at Alisha and say, “blending creates that perfect gradation so skin looks supple, smooth and never streaky. Don’t you agree?” Alisha was nodding, holding out other products and asking way too many questions. Who talks like that? And if I ever took over 15 minutes for my entire morning routine, my schedule would be wrecked and my anxiety level would be out the roof.

There were entirely too many steps in this process which is another reason I’ve never really gotten into the whole makeup thing—it’s complicated. I have many other complicated things to think about. Then I look in the mirror, “hey, where did the bags under my eyes go? John, that’s amazing!” Maybe I can hang in there a little longer after all.

But about the time I thought he was done, he picked up another brush. “We’ll use,” and then he said some French word that I didn’t understand, “and start at the apples of the cheeks and blend upwards and towards your temple for a natural look.” Thank God for that, I thought. Natural, that’s good.FullSizeRender2

 “John, you’ve lost me. What did you say that was?”

Alisha steps over, “It’s just a blush.” She’s probably never worn “just a blush” in her life. Alisha is what I consider one of “those” women. Women who are gorgeous without makeup, swear they aren’t, and can spend hours in front of the mirror and emerge looking like they belong on the cover of a fashion magazine. That is not me.

But probably the biggest reason I’m conservative with makeup is that my mom didn’t wear any. She was beautiful and didn’t need it, but I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to her to use cosmetics. She had a few things on the top of her dresser like Tussy Deodorant, Jergens Lotion, Tweed perfume, and Revlon lipstick in Fire Engine Red, which to this day really surprises me. But there was no eyeshadow, powder, foundation or blush.

My sister and I were pretty much on our own. We spent hours poring over copies of Teen and Seventeen Magazines trying to look like Sandra Dee. We spent our entire allowance on Tangee lipstick and Maybelline eyeshadow. The best sleepovers were at friends who had older sisters with makeup experience.

It’s been over fifty years since I graduated high school and my make-up skills are quite good now, if I do say so myself. But after seeing the results of the hours spent with Big John and Alisha, I think I’ll spend a little more time and be a bit more adventurous. 

In Praise of Public Speaking

In Praise of Public Speaking

Today was the first day of class. My first day as an instructor for Public Speaking 101.  I was nervous, but I figured in about ten minutes, I was not going to be the most nervous person in the room.

I stood behind the lectern placed on the scarred wooden table and deliberately recalled some of my most frightening and nauseating public speaking experiences. I wished there weren’t so many. Would any of my students have similar memories?  I knew there would be experienced and eloquent speakers in the class, at least I hoped there would be. But I also knew there would be at least one person, and maybe more, whose worst fear became real when they saw that Public Speaking 101 was a requirement for graduation.

As part of the course, I wanted my students to learn research skills, how to organize their ideas and how to “show not tell.” But more than that I wanted them to not dread talking in front of a group of people. Maybe not enjoy it, but not let fear squeeze their insides, impede their career advancement, or cripple them socially. public speaking.png

My goal was to make a specific, positive and self-affirming comment to each student when they gave a speech. At the same time, I had to teach and help each student improve and grow as a speaker. There could be no empty praise or vacuous compliments. What stood out, what was memorable, colorful, engaging? Where could a better phrase, analogy or vocal inflection be enhanced?

How could I ever do this? Would I even be able to do this? Would I even know if I wounded a student’s psyche? Sometimes I was most excellent, and sometimes I wanted to slice the tongue right out of my mouth.

But no one dropped the class. No one cried or threw up or, at least from my perspective, embarrassed themselves. The last day of class each student shared how taking a public speaking class helped them or was going to help them as a person and a student. Most of their comments weren’t directed at me or at what a great teacher I was, but about the confidence and self-esteem that resulted from speaking in front of a group of people.  Several students said giving a speech was the most courageous thing they had ever done.

I was proud of me and of them. I was part of something important in their lives. They might not remember me or my name. I don’t remember them by name. But I remember them as a group. I remember how they made me feel. I’m proud of myself, not as a teacher but as a person. I can be very critical in many areas of my life, but in that classroom, I found something specific and positive and real  to say about every speech and every student. It was more than praise. It was a marvelous self-affirmation for all of us.

Monkey on my back

Daily Prompt-Understanding

“What the hell are you thinking?”

I’ve wanted to say this so many times. No, shout it. “How can you possibly tell me you are not eating carbs and not drinking wine! Look at you!” My mouth is shut; my mind is not.

I love what I do, and I’m good at it. My clients and I have a mutual respect and appreciation for each other. But there are moments, thankfully brief. . .

“Just stop! Stop! You are going to kill yourself.” If you would just let me take that dumbbell from you and not drop it.

My Buddhist guru calls this Monkey Mind. “Let the monkey out for a few seconds,” he tells me, “then let it go. He will destroy your serenity.” I breathe.monkey on back

I think I’m mellowing out. “This is hard for you, but you’re getting it.”

Ugh, here he comes again.  “Listen to me. I have more experience. I have more education.” I particularly like this one because, after all, I have a PhD and eight personal training certifications.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, now I remember. I was so caught up in myself that I forgot what I wanted you to do.

Get off my back, you hairy monkey. AmScray. “Didn’t you hear me?” my mind shouts. “Pull the bar down easily; don’t yank it.” Monkey mind, monkey mind.

The monkey is leaving. I sigh in relief.  “Yes?” I exclaim. “Your form is perfect. Your shoulders are back; your chest is out.”

Here he comes. AmScray. Get off my back you hairy monkey. “I am the trainer. You pay me to be right.” do what your trainer tells you

I wave farewell to the monkey. “You’ve got it! Perfect!” I say aloud. My client beams.

Sneaky little thing. Ten seconds. Ten seconds. That’s all you got today, you furry intruder!

“You are so patient and understanding,” my client says to me. “I appreciate you so much. I never thought I could do this.”

I breathe. I smile. “You’re doing great! You work hard and pay attention. This was a hard workout.”

Take that, you obnoxious primate. You can never say anything that will make me hurt my client or dislike my job. Ten seconds! That’s all you get.

 

Dreams of spooning

Daily Prompt – Fork

It’s so junior high, but it was so much fun!

“Fork it over,” said the spoon. “I heard them say, ‘you’re done’.” She was hoping this would be the last time she ever saw him or heard his barb-like wit.

“They said ‘put a fork in it’ you hollowed out excuse for flatware,” replied the fork, trying not to see how smooth and well-rounded she was.

“You’re finished,” shouted the spoon. “’Your tine has come.”spoon and fork

“Haha, you pint-sized ladle.

“You’re such a prick,” shouted the spoon.

“Yeah, and I’ll stick it to you if you’re not careful.” They both looked down sadly knowing it was true. Their shiny finishes seemed to dull. The first time Fork spilled over into Spoon’s tray, their parents had warned them.

They could be friends and co-workers but their dream of spooning would always be tainted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If it’s good enough for Einstein

Daily Prompt – Countless

“Twenty sit-ups,” I say enthusiastically and start counting, “One, two, three, four. . .”

Five minutes later, “Ten burpees. You can do bicycle absthis! One, two, three. . .”

Countless counting! I count reps all day long. I count to twenty countless times during a day. If I expand that time frame to a week, a month or a year using the word “countless” becomes an understatement.

Counting is important in my business because it is one way to measure a person’s improvement. I’m good at my job, but I’m a terrible counter. I start out well enough then my attention turns to form or I want to explain how the muscles work in a particular exercise. My counting starts to sound like that of a two-year-old.  “One, two, three, four, five—drop your back knee—three, four…”

If my client has been training with me for a while, they quickly point out, “that’s six.”

“Right, six. We’re doing twenty. You know I can’t count. You count,” I’ll say and continue the explanation.

This whole counting thing goes back to my multi-tasking abilities—or I should say lack of multi-tasking skills. I don’t multi-task.  I don’t think there is any shame in not being an accomplished multiAlbert_Einstein_by_ken_chen.jpgtasker; I’m just not good at it.

Actually, I used to multi-task, but Mom said I was scatterbrained and teachers said I couldn’t stay on task. So I developed strategies to overcome my multi-tasking shortcomings.

I write everything down. I am an avid note-taker. I am renowned for my outlining, highlighting, labeling and organizing skills.

These strategies have created other problems, however. My obsessive outlining and note-taking has diminished my memorization abilities which in turn makes writing down everything even more important.

My spreadsheets of client workouts are extensive. I record the exercise, repetitions, sets and countless other data. Some of my co-workers consider this record-keeping a sign of professionalism, others as an idiosyncrasy. I always thought of it as a crutch.

Then I read Einstein’s words, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

Saying the words, “wait a sec while I look it up,” used to embarrass me. I felt that as an intelligent person I should have this information on the tip of my tongue. Well, those days are over!

I am in the company of geniuses. If it is good enough for Einstein, it is good enough for me!

 

 

 

The Summer of ’66

The Summer of ’66

“Roll down the back seat window. It’s hot!” I shouted over my shoulder, my hands slippery with sweat on the steering wheel of the 1961 Chevy Bel Air station wagon. The window at the rear of the wagon didn’t roll down, so what little air there was floated to the back and became trapped. Even if every window was open, no air could circulate in the cave-like behemoth.

1961 bel air station wagonAgainst Mom’s wishes, Dad let me have the station wagon, telling her it was a tank and virtually indestructible. “She’ll be the last one standing,” he smiled and gave Mom a hug.

McDuff hollered over the wind, “It’s so neato you got the car!”

“Bitchin, McDuff,” McDuff was what everyone called Mary McDuff. She wasn’t really my friend; she was my best friend Bernie’s friend. Bernie’s mom wouldn’t let her ride in a car with another teenager driving. “Not enough driving experience,” Bernie’s mom had her. McDuff’s mother obviously didn’t object, and I had lied to my mother about where I was going and who was going with me.

I had been afraid I wouldn’t get the car. Mom and I had argued this morning.  “What’s the point of having a driver’s license and a car if you never let me go anywhere.”

“Please,” I begged. “I’ll be careful.” She wasn’t budging.

“Dad will be okay with it. Let’s call him. Come on, Mom.” I sidled lovingly up beside her and felt her weaken.

“Fine,” she said. “But you have to take Susie. And, you have to stop at the Winn Dixie to pick up the roast I ordered.” What a bummer. Susie was my baby sister and five years younger than me. Taking her along would be a real drag.

“If you tell Mom anything, I’ll kill you,” I told her as we walked to the car. “And don’t say anything dumb in front of McDuff.”

“I won’t. I promise,” she said. Susie was sweet and she worshipped me, but she was incredibly stupid about what not to tell Mom to avoid getting in trouble.

“Whatever,” I thought as I stretched out my legs and adjusted the seat. Coming through for my friends was all that mattered. This was my chance to win McDuff over. She had been doing more and more things with Bernie and not including me.  My plan was to become the indispensable member of a threesome. I would be the friend with a car.

“Get in the back,” I told Susie when we pulled up to McDuff’s house.

“Who’s this” McDuff asked as she slammed the heavy car door.

“My sister. I had to bring her or I couldn’t have the car.” I shrugged apologetically.

“It’s cool,” she replied.

“Where are we meeting them?” I asked. “Them” referring to the three boys McDuff had met the previous weekend at White Lake, a summer hangout twenty miles from home. McDuff swore they were very cute, smoked cigarettes, and liked to lay out on the pier tanning. They had promised to treat us to burgers at Hardees.

“It better be on the side by the pier,” I said, “or we’ll have to drive around forever trying to find a parking space.”

On the pier side of the lake was a paved parking lot with pull-in spaces. If the lot was full, sweaty drivers squeezed their cars bumper-to-bumper on either side of a two lane road that edged the lake. I could barely park the wide whale of a vehicle in a pull-in space. Mastering the clutch with the gearshift on the column was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Parallel parking was a requirement to get a driver’s license, and I had barely passed the test in a much smaller sedan. The jutting, high profile tailfins on the wagon made it nearly impossible to see the car behind me. The all steel body was difficult for me to maneuver, and even the thought of backing up terrified me.

“They’re saving us a space,” she said.

Relieved, I turned the volume up on the radio. It was the summer of 1966 and my favorite song by the Troggs was playing. The three of us tunelessly belted out,

Troggs album cover wild thing“Wild thing, I think  I love you

You make everything groovy, wild thing

Wild thing, I think I love you

But I wanna know for sure

Come on and hold me tight I love you.”

We leaned to the center of the front seat and curled our hands as though holding microphones. We rolled our eyes at each other and laughed. It was working; McDuff liked me. Bernie, McDuff and I were going to be a trio of friends.